Hopeful Health News

About this time of year, when the dewy-eyed hope of our new year’s resolutions start fading into cynicism, we need a new dose of hope. As your eagle-eyed health columnist, I can provide. There is plenty of optimistic news coming our way for improving your healthspan. Here are a few that have caught my eye.

A toast to Alzheimer’s with a glass of red

italian_red_220.jpgIn what is being hailed as a “breakthrough study,” the good folks at Mount Sinai School of Medicine are putting the finishing touches on the stellar reputation of red wine as a health drink. Add Alzheimer’s prevention to the long list health benefits. Red wine is rich in polyphenols, the anti-oxidant compounds that have already been shown in prior studies to break up the plaque build up in the brain that is widely seen as the culprit in Alzheimer’s. In the study presented at the most recent meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, the wine imbibing mice went on a binge for seven months and ended up with a reduced concentration of the beta-amyloid plaque in the brain as compared to the more sober mice.

By the way, cabernet sauvignon was singled out as being particularly beneficial. At least it wasn’t merlot.

Niacin in training in the fight against aging

lab-mice.jpgResearch coming out of the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia has found that a component of niacin (also known as vitamin B3), shows great promise for slowing down the aging process. The B3 component can activate an enzyme called sirtuin which has been shown to extend the lives of different kinds of organisms. In a prepared statement, senior study author Ronen Mamorstein said, “Our findings suggest a new avenue for designing sirtuin-activating drugs. The jury is still out as to whether a drug of this kind might result in longer life in humans, but I’m equally excited by the possibility that such interventions might help counteract age-related health problems like obesity and Type 2 diabetes.”

Where there is hope there’s a way. Stay tuned on this one.

Good news for menopausal women seeking options

In the upcoming issue of Menopause, a scientific advisory panel convened by the American Menopause Society will issue an important new position statement on hormone therapy (HT). It eases the position on whether women should take hormones to lessen menopausal symptoms.

Dr. Wulf Utian, director of the Menopause Society, said in a statement made to Heartwire: “For women with severe menopausal symptoms, within a few years of their last period, hormone therapy shouldn’t be as scary as it has been made out to be.”

In the same interview, he pointed out that older women, who are still experiencing troubling menopausal symptoms, need to consider whether to resume HT more carefully, as they are “at a higher absolute risk for cancer and heart disease.” Recommendations are that women who wish to use HT start out on the lowest possible dose and only increase gradually until symptoms abate. As to the problems associated with HT, Dr. Utian noted that both breast cancer and heart attacks are rare, although the risk for stroke is slightly higher in older women.

First non-prescription diet pill approved by the FDA

alli_diet.jpgFor all of us whose metabolisms have slowed to snail’s pace and yet are intent on weighing what we did in college, this may be at least convenient news. Alli, the first FDA approved over-the-counter med is coming to town. It is a lower dose version of Xenical, which works by blocking the absorption of fat and its attendant calories. Alli is safe and can help dieters lose up to 16 pounds. You have to be willing to put up with flatulence and greasy stools. But what price health and beauty, right?

And finally, a novel way to live longer

Mice who were genetically engineered to have lower body temperatures lived the equivalent of eight years longer in human years. How this might be applicable to humans is still being looked at. For now, I think it might be advisable to find ways to chill out.

Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh is a licensed clinical psychologist with a psychotherapy practice in Santa Barbara. Comment at and visit his web site/blog at for more information on the topics covered in this column.

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